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# Just Sort It! A Simple and Effective Approach to Active Preference Learning

*Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Machine Learning*, PMLR 70:2344-2353, 2017.

#### Abstract

We address the problem of learning a ranking by using adaptively chosen pairwise comparisons. Our goal is to recover the ranking accurately but to sample the comparisons sparingly. If all comparison outcomes are consistent with the ranking, the optimal solution is to use an efficient sorting algorithm, such as Quicksort. But how do sorting algorithms behave if some comparison outcomes are inconsistent with the ranking? We give favorable guarantees for Quicksort for the popular Bradley-Terry model, under natural assumptions on the parameters. Furthermore, we empirically demonstrate that sorting algorithms lead to a very simple and effective active learning strategy: repeatedly sort the items. This strategy performs as well as state-of-the-art methods (and much better than random sampling) at a minuscule fraction of the computational cost.